Saturday, 30 June 2012

Side Saddles in Coventry!

Had to go to Coventry today to pick up a lovely Mayhew that I purchased on Ebay. The seller bought it for her horse but it ended up being too narrow so I bought it! I sat on it on the stand when I got home and I find this saddle comfier than my Whippy. As much as I love my Whippy, the seat on the Mayhew fits me better. Even the "sweet spot" that the original owner "moulded" into the seat fits my leg length and seat bone perfectly too. The pommels are really wide and flared and the leaping head has a nice curve and shape to it that fits my leg. I won't need to get this one opened up by the farrier! The seat length on this one is 18" from cutback to cantle and 21 1/2" from the front of the fixed head to cantle. the seat width is a comfy 13 1/2" which fits my big old 42" hips really well. Better than my 12 1/2" Whippy, lol.

It looks to be a mid 20th century one with all sort of patent numbers stamped on it for the UK and the USA as well as being "Saddler To The King", which king, it doesn't say. Hopefully when I give it to Roger to flock it up and replace all the billets, he will find a label on the tree. The nearside tree point needs building up at the tip, and a better-sewn-on nearside point pocket too but the tree seems sound and other than flocking and new billets, it's actually in pretty good condition. I have a preference for pigskin seats too.

I'm really pleased with this saddle and can't wait to try it on Hattie tomorrow!

After we picked up the saddle, we weren't far from the city of Coventry so went there to have a look around and do some shopping. While we were there, we spotted a statue of Lady Godiva in the town square riding "side saddle"! I thought it was a neat side saddle sighting so took some photos to share to those too far away to visit it :)

Another side saddle sighting (this time NOT in Coventry), was seen by my sister in law the other day when she went to visit a museum in the city of York. They had a "Victorian Saddler's Shop" window display in the museum and there right smack in the middle of it, was an antique Victorian side saddle so she photographed it for me. I do not know any else about this side saddle but if I ever get to go to this museum, then I will take some close up shots and see if there are any information labels anywhere and report back.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Reversible Side Saddle Eye Candy Overload...

Lately, there has been a glut of reversible side saddles for sale on Ebay. I posted about this before as they all seem to come in waves. It's great that all these saddles are coming out of the wood work to be used again as there is a demand for saddles that can be ridden on the off-side due to more people taking up side saddle riding that can't ride on the nearside or astride due to their "bodies not co-operating"!

There was a little Champion & Wilton reversible side saddle which had a 17 1/2" seat from the front of the fixed head to the cantle so a child or small adult size. It has the style of safe which my Parker saddle had (until some silly person cut it down!) so will show my saddler this photo to show how I need it made.

Interestingly, although this saddle is a reversible, it seems to have been ridden mostly on the near side as there are no D-rings on the nearside for a sandwich case or to swap over the balance girth when riding on the off-side. All the D-rings are on the off-side only.

This particular saddle does not have a cutback head like mine either so the leaping head just screws into one hole at the center of the pommel and you would just twist it around to whatever side you wanted to ride on.

Look how the Champion & Wilton fitting was reversed for riding on the off-side.

Another reversible side saddle that has been coming up on Ebay, is a TINY one made by a saddler called Wick. I don't know anything about Wick saddles so it may have been a local saddler who bought a tree from the "Big Name" saddlers of the day and made their own. During the golden age of side saddles, most local saddlers would have been more than able to make a side saddle on the same level of quality, if not better, than the "Big Name" saddlers of the era. Hard to say what stirrup fitting this little 14" reversible has but it looks very similar in style (minus the missing safe) as the Champion & Wilton. This little Wick, however, looks to have a cutback head.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The George Parker & Sons Reversible Side Saddle

Presenting the newest addition to my saddle stable, a turn of the century George Parker & Sons reversible side saddle!

I have always wanted a reversible but finding one in an adult size is hard as they were mostly made for children and teenagers to ride in as it was thought that if a girl only rode on one side while she was growing, then her spine would develop crookedly.

It has the George Parker and Sons brass plate on each side of the long tree points and lists them as being at 18 and 19 Upper St. Martin's Lane which if you Google the address now, is a Stringfellow's topless dancing club. My, how times have changed!

A copy of the Parker Saddler's 1911 catalog is available to view online but sadly, there are no reversibles listed in it.

Mine is all leather but the safe was cut down at some point. It should have extended down the length of the flap with the bottom of it, looping onto the overgirth strap like what I have drawn on the photo.

One thing that has always puzzled me about reversibles, is how the heck do you flock them? Normal side saddles are built up more on one side to support the hip on the stirrup side but you can't do that with a reversible. The only way I think they would have done it back in the day, is flock it up properly to the rider's preferred side and then use some sort of riser pad on the days when the rider swapped to the least preferred side.  My saddle was ridden more on the off-side as the flap on that side, has a great deal of wear to it whereas, the nearside flap, has no wear to the grain pattern on the leather. When I have my saddler work on it, I am going to have it flocked up to be ridden on the off-side.

Interestingly, so you do not get mixed up with the pommels, the leaping head does not screw into the holes for the fixed head and vice versa. 

As soon as my saddle came, I hauled it down to the stables to try on Hattie. The tree follows the contours of her conformation perfectly. It truly was made for a Thoroughbred and I couldn't really get a better tree fit even going custom! 

The saddle needs the panels relining and the flocking sorting out as there are moth holes in the serge and the flocking is flat and all over the place. These photos were taken after I had ridden in it for about 10- 15 minutes with walking and trotting. The flocking settled right down on her and I could only get one finger between her withers and the gullet channel.

The tree follows her shoulders nicely but the whole saddle needs lifting up and flocking added for extra support.

Hattie looking unimpressed with her new wardrobe but you can see on the off-side how the tree seems to be a good fit.

The long points stopped the saddle from rolling too much despite the flat non existent flocking but you can see how it will need building up for off-side riding.

You can see how compacted the panels are and how much the saddle will need lifting it will need. Despite the rubbush panels, the seat is near level. It does have a dippy style seat like my off-side Beck Morrow but I don't mind as I like a bit of a dippy seat any ways.

Hattie seems to like the saddle and there were no "bucks of objection" when trotting as she normally does if she does not like a saddle. I couldn't do too much and work her properly due to the flocking and the OLD billet straps, but it did not slide forward so another good thing!

I think I'm going to need to put my queen on the fixed head but whoever had this saddle, was about my size as the leaping head fits lovely and the seat is plenty long enough for me. From the front of the fixed head to cantle is 21 1/4", from the cutback head to cantle is 17", the seat width is a comfy 13" so a bit wider than my Whippy seat.

My saddler came out the other day to do the final fitting on my off-side Beck Morrow (it's going good!!) and I showed him my reversible and put it on Hattie. He tested the tree and said it was sound and said that, terrible flockin aside, that the tree was actually quite a good fit for Hattie so when he finishes my Beck Morrow, I'll have him start on my reversible.

And then it will happy trails on this saddle!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Catch Up Time & Show Reports!

Has it been a month already since my last post? Well, better late than never!!

What another eventful month it has been again...

First of all, I ended up selling my green Rice trailer as although it was a good trailer, it needed a bit more work than what I am capable of doing and the money I would have had to spend fixing it up, would have added up to buying my friend's Ifor Williams trailer that she was selling. So sold my old trailer and bought my friend's which doesn't need any work doing to it!

It's also light enough for our car to tow it with one horse in it (my friend's car that towed it, is the same engine size as ours) so that opens up more show options for me although leads us to the next "event".

On May 27, we went to the first Diamond Equestrian horse show of the season. We had glorious sunshine so hacked the 5 1/2 miles there without any problem, trotting and cantering along the grass verges to get there a bit quicker and as a nice fun warm-up.

We entered Best Turned Out, Best Condition, Riding Club Horse, In-hand Veteran and Prettiest Mare, the first class being Best Turned Out where we came 1st. Hattie was lovely and shiny and in good condition and was striding out nicely at the walk. My new habit didn't look too shabby either!

Our next class was Best Condition and I thought Hattie was in with a good chance to win it as she was sparkling, had been working well all month so was in good muscle and then it all went downhill when we had to do the trot up for the judge. She was lame!!! Hattie had been fine hacking all the way to the show, striding out nicely in Best Turned Out and in the walk in-hand and there wasn't any stones in her hooves or anything. She does have a problem with her off-side stifle on very rare occasions and the ground was hard baked and bumpy so I wondered if she tweaked something and the hard, bumpy ground aggravated it? There was no heat, swelling, cuts or scrapes either.

The judge placed us last (obviously) but she said that had Hattie not been lame, that Hattie would have been placed at the top as she was in excellent condition and in good weight for her type and age.

That cut our day short and I had to scratch from the rest of my classes but there was still the problem of getting back home. Although she was fine walking, I didn't want to push walking her all the way home, even leading her but luckily there was a horse transporter company there that was just about to leave so we got a lift back home. Also luckily, I got my show fees back from the scratched classes so was able to pay the horse transporter as I had no other cash on me! D'oh!!!

When we got back home, I put her on box rest for the rest of the day and then with day turnout the next day, gradually increasing it to the 24/7 like the rest of the herd. There was no lameness when I turned her out the next day after the show (although a slight stiffness on the right bend when trotting in-hand) and she proceeded to gallop off like a loon, sigh...

She was fine afterwards and I started schooling, hacking and lunging as with stifle issues, regular work (and working properly across the back and from the back end) and keeping the horse fit, is the key to preventing and healing them. Hattie is fine now apart from her idiot boyfriend, Stan, stepping on her nearside hind shoe the other week and causing her to step on the clip and going lame for a day. The farrier fixed that and *touch wood*, no more accidents although Hattie has over reach boots on each hoof now!!!

Due to what happened at the Diamond show and having to pay the horse transporter a chunk of cash, my ever obliging husband, said that he will tow us to local shows now. I swear I saw Hattie smile when I said that and did wonder at the time if Hattie had "faked" lameness just to get sympathy tows from my husband!!

So between the Diamond show on the 27, Hattie being lame twice, I only had about 2 1/2 weeks to prepare for the Side Saddle Association Area 12 show on June 17! We started out schooling slowly, with lots of hacks over uneven terrain and built up from there. I have also made the decision to no longer jump Hattie due to her off-side stifle and just concentrate on dressage and equitation as she is 16 and want to keep her fit, healthy and competing as long as she wants to keep doing it.

My friend Julia, was also going to compete on Hattie in the Novice Equitation class as in that class, horse sharing is allowed (it is walk and trot only and only for riders who have never entered a SSA Equitation Qualifying class). I wanted to do the Novice Eq, Restricted Eq and the Concours D'Elegance classes so we prayed for a let up in the crap weather we've been having (still wearing winter coats in the middle of June), packed up the trailer (Julia borrowing her generous ex-husband's Land Rover to tow it) and off we went on Sunday to the Area 12 show!

Well, win we three did! Julia came first in the Novice Eq class and I came third in it. The judge said that Hattie was too fast but I only rode her forward like how Lili's been training us to do for our dressage tests. I have a feeling that Equitation judges look for different things in the way a horse goes than a Dressage judge so will have to remember to change my style of riding to suit each discipline. It is an interesting comparison between the two!  I am happy with my placing as Hattie was working nice and forward from behind in a nice outline instead of the "lacking purpose" comments we used to get in dressage tests so that is a big achievement!

Julia rode like an old pro despite only having ridden Hattie 3 times and only just finishing her habit in the 24th hour!! I knew when I saw Julia ride that I didn't have a hope in hell of winning that class. I think telling her that I would have to beat her with my antique crop if she didn't come 1st or 2nd helped, lol.  Go Team Hattie!

Walking around in the Novice class...

Our turnout being inspected in the Novice Eq class. the judge said that she didn't normally like numnahs on side saddles but she liked mine as it was unobtrusive and wasn't too thick.

Now if Hattie can only trot like this for our dressages tests...

Julia riding beautifully, just like an old pro...

Hattie showing off...

Julia whooping our butts with her 1st place rosette! Well done!

The next class was the Restricted Equitation class which is for riders who have never done a SSA equitation qualifying class OR have never placed in 1st- 3rd place in one and requires you to walk, trot and canter with the group and in your individual show. I remembered to think "less dressagy" and had to sit back and collect Hattie more to a slower trot but not to let her go on the forehand or "lack purpose". It was hard but we did it and won 1st! I don't have many photos as my husband filmed a video of it (have yet to put it on You Tube) but there are lots of photos on the show photographer's website (the Restricted Eq photos run from numbers  17JUN12-224 to 17JUN12-241). I need to order some prints.

Hattie and I with our 1st place rosette...

The next class the Concours D'Elegance where I was with the "Big Girls"! It's basically like Best Turned Out but your riding and the whole picture your present is also judged. Nerve-racking stuff! I've never done a Concours class and was worried that Hattie's half bald mane and our snaffle instead of double bridle would get us marked down heavily but it didn't, we came 3rd! 

Everyone had to walk, trot canter together on both reins and then for the individual show, we did them in pairs and had to try not to run into each other. The judge said that we had excellent turnout and asked if that was my real hair as my bun was big, lol. 

No pictures but the the numbers start from 17JUN12-246 to 17JUN12-263 for the Concours class on the photographer's website. I went a bit more "dressage" for the Concours class as it's about an elegant picture and check out Hattie's brilliant trot in picture 17JUN12-246!

I'm really pleased how all three of us did, the judging was fair and we can't wait for the next SSA show!

Oh, and by the way, I seem to have acquired this lovely Parker & Sons Reversible side saddle..... ;-)